Last Time in Brand New Breeze:
I open my mouth but the words still won’t come out. I’m just too nervous. Scared. But if I can’t tell them, there’s still one way I can show them.
Pulling the ring Gale gave me over my neck, I slip it off of its cord. It sparkles in the sunlight across Peeta and Gale’s faces. Both boys’ eyes follow my movements intently. My hands are shaking a bit and I almost drop the ring, but I manage to place it on my left ring finger and slide it down until it’s snug.
“Katniss…” Gale breathes, his voice full of hope.
I hold up my hand to stop him. I can’t let him say anything. I’ll lose my nerve. I take my father’s ring out of my pocket and step over to Gale. Taking his left hand in mine, I place the ring on his finger. I take a deep breath and look up to meet Gale’s eyes. I reach my other hand out to take Peeta’s in mine.
Whatever thing preventing me from speaking snaps and I’m finally able to breathe out what I’ve been wanting to say for so long.
Gale wants to hold our toasting right away, I suspect he’s concerned I might change my mind. I can’t begrudge his concern, I did take almost a month to give them my answer, but now that my mind’s made up, I’m not going to change it so he doesn’t have to worry and we don’t need to rush.
Peeta seems to feel the same way. “You know, her mother and sister and your brother might want to help us celebrate this.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Gale sighs, running his fingers through his hair. “A celebration would be nice.”
“And besides, it’ll get Rory off my back.” Peeta pauses, looking at our fiancé. “He hates me, you know.”
“And you think telling him that we’re all getting married is going to fix the problem?” Gale asks.
“He did throw it out there as an option, so hopefully he’s at least open to the idea. If not,” Peeta shrugs, “he’ll just have to learn to live with it.”
I smile. “If he gives you too much trouble, tell him I’ll take his bow away until he has a better attitude.”
“And tell him I’ll kick his ass,” Gale adds. “Big brother’s prerogative. I asked both of you to marry me. I didn’t fucking stutter.”
“Aww, you guys are so sweet, offering to protect your little man bride like this.” Peeta bats his eyes at the two of us, imitating many of Finnick Odair’s co-stars. Gale slugs his fiancé’s shoulder and they both laugh.
I shake my head at the two of them. “Are you guys really going with that?” I ask incredulously.
Peeta shrugs again. “Why not? It works.”
“Just so long as I get to be the husband to both of you, I don’t care what terms we use.”
“So you’re saying we can call you ‘piss boy’ and you’d be okay with it?” Peeta teases.
“What about ‘puppy’?”
“I’m not a dog,” Gale states flatly.
Peeta grins. “But you’re so cute and I just want to pet your ears and neck and call you a good boy.”
“Maybe later.” There’s a promise in his tone. “Right now I don’t think introducing me to the world as Peeta Mellark’s puppy is a good idea. I could go for lord and master, but I think Katniss would kick me in the balls if I tried that on her, so that’s out. Look, I’ll be your man bride if you’ll be mine.”
“Sounds fair.” Peeta holds out his hand. “I’ll be your man bride if you’ll be mine. Deal?”
Gale clasps Peeta’s hand. “Deal.”
I’m not really sure what to say. Part of me finds it hilarious and I’m happy that Peeta seems to be okay with it. But another part of me just goes ‘what the hell are they thinking?’ On the other hand, I guess it does give me a term to use for him, but hell if I’m gonna introduce them as ‘hi, this is Gale Hawthorne, my husband, and Peeta Mellark, my man bride.’ They can both be my husband and the rest of the world can deal with it. Of course that’s assuming we run into someone I actually need to introduce them to. “I guess we should probably go tell everybody,” I say instead.
“You think they don’t know?” Gale asks me.
“Please? I’d like this to be official.”
Peeta and Gale share a look. “I think we can do that.”
Telling my mother, Rory, and Prim goes about how I expected. My mother smiles at me indulgently, as if she already knew my answer. Prim squeals and starts nattering on about all of the plans for the toasting and asking us what kind of bread we’re going to make and if we’re going to have dancing and music. And Rory glares at me.
“Couldn’t make up your mind, couldya?”
“Rory,” Gale scolds.
“It’s not fair!” he explodes at his brother. “She gets everything she wants! And you’re just going to roll over and take it!”
“What makes you think I don’t want them both?” Gale growls out. “That I was the one who couldn’t make up my mind? I’ll have you know, Rhod--”
“Don’t you dare!” Rory clenches his hand into fists.
Gale mimics the action. “Don’t you make me.”
Rory glares at his brother for a little bit. “So this was your idea?”
“Yup. And if you don’t like it, tough. I’m keeping them.” He puts his arms around Peeta and me. “Both of them.”
“Oh, that’s so romantic!” Prim sighs. “Almost like out of a Capitol movie!”
“Don’t you start too,” Rory grouches.
My mother just laughs.
Our toasting takes place on August Fifteenth. Peeta makes a loaf of bread from three types of grain. He uses what’s left of the hardtack as well as cattail pollen flour and some ground corn to make an herbed soda bread.
Everybody dresses in their best clothes, although Prim protested at my refusal to wear a skirt or a dress. She even tried to get me into that pink monstrosity Rory found, which everyone else, thankfully, vetoed.
When we’re ready, my mother and Prim escort me out to where the boys are waiting. All three of us are wearing crowns made out of orange, blue, and white flowers. Since we don’t have to go to the Justice Building and fill out paperwork, we get to make our own rules. The bread was a given. That’s ours, from Twelve. The crowns were Gale’s suggestion. I swear that man’s a little obsessed with Peeta’s and my hair, but I admit, it works for us. Peeta asked for each of us to write our own promises to each other for our marriage. And my demand was a little more practical: a honeymoon. I wanted time for us to be away, just the three of us, so that we could explore being married together.
We leave tomorrow.
But first, we have to get married.
Peeta and Gale each hold out a hand to me and I step forward, taking them. The boys then join hands. The three of us stand there in a triangle, as a group, stronger together than apart.
Naturally, Peeta starts. “I offer myself to you to be your husband. To love, honor and cherish you both through sickness and health, to keep and to comfort, to council and defend. For as long as we all live. Do you accept my heart?”
“We will,” Gale and I chorus.
Now it’s my turn. “I offer myself to be your wife. To protect and provide, to love and cherish, so long as we all shall live. Do you accept me?”
“We will,” Gale and Peeta say.
And finally it’s Gale’s turn. “Do you take me to be your husband? To let me care for and keep you, to let me honor and cherish you, to let me protect and defend you, to provide and sacrifice for you, to love you and learn you for as long as we all shall live?”
“We will,” Peeta and I answer.
The three of us kneel down. At our feet is a small building of sticks, the symbolic representation of the hearth we’ll share together. While Peeta lights the fire, my mother steps forward and hands Gale the small loaf of bread Peeta made this morning.
When the fire’s caught, Gale breaks the bread into three pieces, handing one each to Peeta and me. Together we toast our bread over the fire. Each of us has contributed something to this loaf. Gale’s tesserae, my gathering, Peeta’s skill. It’s meant to be symbolic of our life together. I can’t help but feel trepidation and excitement at the thought. I never thought I’d get married, let alone at sixteen. But here I am, about to embark on this journey.
My eyes meet both Gale’s and Peeta’s and we smile. I couldn’t be happier.
After dinner, Peeta, Gale, and I climb the hill to our tree to watch the sunset. It’s nothing much, more an excuse for us to be alone before our wedding night. We haven’t really talked about logistics and even though I don’t want to, I know we should.
None of us is in any hurry to start the conversation. The boys stand on either side of me with their arms draped over my shoulders, holding hands over my back. I like this feeling of closeness. I don’t want it to end.
Eventually Gale clears his throat. “Catnip?”
“You’re not mad at us, are you?”
I smile up at him. “Do I look like I’m mad at you?”
“No, but I just thought I’d be sure.” He pauses, clearly nervous. “Peet and me, we have something of yours.”
I hadn’t noticed anything missing. I tilt my head in confusion.
“After you left with Rory,” Peeta says, picking up the conversation, “after Gale and I had our conversation, we…” he trails off.
Gale looks at him over my head. “I thought you were supposed to be good with words, Mellark.”
“I normally am! You’re the one who asked me to explain this! If you’re gonna give me critique, why don’t you do it?”
“Fine, I will!”
I swivel my head between the two of them. “Will someone please tell me what’s going on?”
“Look, Catnip, here.” He thrusts something out in front of me.
It takes a moment to recognize the object silhouetted against the setting sun. It’s the necklace Gale gave me for my birthday, but now Peeta’s pearl is clutched in the mockingjay’s talons.
They’ve combined their two gifts into something even more beautiful. Something with meaning. I reach out and take it, tying the leather cord around my neck. “Can you make sure the knot’s tight? I don’t want it to fall off.”
“Sure,” Peeta says. I can hear the pleasure in his voice. He fiddles with the knot, tying it and then double tying it before pulling it taut and testing it a bit. He drops a kiss on the back of my neck. “I think it’s good.”
“Do you want to go back inside?” Gale asks.
I nod my head in the fading light.
When we get inside, we discover my mother’s given us another gift. She’s taken Prim and Rory into the kitchen and put up one of the screens to cover the entryway, leaving us the rest of the cave to ourselves.
In Twelve as well as here, privacy is a precious commodity and the fact that she’s giving it to us for our wedding night is an extremely thoughtful gift. We don’t waste it.
Finally, a few hours before dawn, we fall asleep entwined together.
We leave late the following morning and head west along the river. We walk slowly, only keeping half an eye out for any game. We’re not in any hurry. This is a trip just for us with no ulterior motive. That doesn’t mean if we spot something useful that we won’t grab it, but we’re not actively looking for anything.
About mid-afternoon we decide to call it an evening and set up camp. Peeta pitches the tent we scavenged from the raiders a few yards away from the river across from a couple of small islands. In the lee of the largest of the three islands, there is a quiet pool, almost perfect for swimming. Peeta must be thinking the same thing because he says, “So I don’t know about you, but I could use a cool dip.”
Gale exchanges a glance with him. “I suppose I could be talked into it.”
“Why do I get the impression that you guys are having an entirely different conversation than the one I’m actually hearing?”
Gale comes up behind me and nuzzles his face in my hair. “That’s because you’re an incredibly intelligent, sexy woman.” He plants a kiss on the side of my neck.
“What does sexy have to do with anything?”
Peeta chuckles. “A lot more than you’d think.”
“You guys are impossible.”
“But you love us anyway.”
“Well, yeah. I married you.”
“We’re gonna make sure you never have cause to regret it.”
We take off our clothes, not even bothering with underwear. There’s no point. Both of them have seen me nude on many occasions. I don’t have anything to hide, and they don’t have anything to hide from me.
We paddle around, enjoying the cool water on the hot summer day. The sky overhead is bright blue without a cloud in sight. We shouldn’t spend too much time out in the sun naked because of sunburn, but I can’t bring myself to leave the water. This is as free and unencumbered as I’ve ever been.
I stand up and stretch, feeling my muscles protest slightly. The water comes to just underneath my breasts and only up to Gale’s waist and I admire the view before me.
“I think getting away from Twelve was good for you,” Peeta says, swimming up to me.
“What do you mean?” I ask, taking half a step forward.
He reaches up to caress the side of my breast. “These. You didn’t have much of these before.” He trails along the side of my ribs. “And these were much more pronounced.” He tickles his fingers across my stomach. “You have the smallest little bit of a belly now.” He kneels down, lifting me up out of the water, and kisses my belly almost reverently. “I find it sexy as hell.”
I splash him. “How long have you been noticing the size of my breasts?”
“I’m a guy, Katniss,” he says as if that explains everything.
“I thought you were different.”
“I’m still a guy.” He pulls me towards him and kisses the skin over my heart. “But I’m your guy,” he adds, looking up at me.
I feel his hands caress my leg and I let out a little moan. When I open my eyes, I notice Gale is watching the two of us from a few feet away. I hold my hand out to him. “Join us?”
He comes over immediately and I position him behind me, pulling his hands up to touch my breasts. Gale responds to my request before reaching around to gently caress the sides of Peeta’s face.
Peeta turns his head and kisses the palm of our husband’s hand.
It’s the most intimate we’ve been as a trio. And I don’t want it to stop. “Can we do this together?” I ask. “Is that okay? I want you both. All three of us. Together.”
Gale nuzzles the back of my neck, kissing his way down my spine. “Whatever you want, Catnip.”
Peeta slides his hands around my body to cup my behind. “I’ll do whatever you want, Katniss.”
“You. I want you. I want both of you.”
Gale starts flicking his thumbs around my nipples, continuing to kiss his way down my spine. He pulls his mouth away when he reaches the waterline. “You’ve got us. So what do you want to do with us?”
That requires thought. That requires speech. And Peeta’s fingers, which have now slipped between my legs to flick at my clit, are making both of those things far too difficult. I moan unintelligibly, hoping that they’ll take that as a hint to continue.
Both boys chuckle.
Gale’s mouth returns to my back and he starts nipping his way back up to my neck. Pressing his cool body to mine, he nips at the join of my neck and shoulder. “I love your neck, Catnip. Peeta may be obsessed with your belly, but I love your neck. The way your hair curls into little tiny corkscrews right here.” He runs his finger along the nape of my neck. “Normally your braid or your hair always hides it. So to be able to see it? Touch it? It turns me on, knowing that I’m one of the few people who get to see this.” He kisses right where my neck meets my spine.
I shiver. I’m not entirely sure if it’s from the cool river or if it’s from the two men’s ministrations.
“Come on,” Peeta says, pulling his head back from my stomach. “Let’s get you out of the cold water.”
Peeta stands up, sweeping me into his arms, and carries me out of the water, Gale at his heels. He places me on the bedroll, making sure to slip a pillow under my head before kneeling down beside me. “Any requests?”
I hold my hands out. “I want you both.” I know I said that before, but the desire hasn’t changed.
Gale kneels on my other side. He turns to Peeta. “Have you ever tasted a girl?”
Peeta shakes his head. “Tasted?”
Gale spreads my legs and runs his fingers around my folds, dipping one long finger inside me. He holds it out to Peeta. “Here.”
Peeta sucks Gale’s finger into his mouth. “No. Mmmm, delicious.”
“You should try the source,” Gale gasps out.
Peeta grins, lifting his head from Gale’s hand. “I think I will.” He moves between my legs and spreads me open, running a finger from my entrance up to my clit. There’s some moisture, but not the same level of slickness that they’re both used to.
“Sorry, water always makes me a little dry.”
“I guess that means I just have to work a little harder. Gee, darn.” He leans forward and gently kisses my opening.
Gale leans over and covers my mouth with his. The kiss is long and sensual. His tongue teases my lips until I open my mouth underneath him. I can feel Peeta starting to go to work on me in earnest and I’m unable to stop the moan from escaping. Gale takes the opportunity to slip his tongue into my mouth, stroking my tongue with his, almost in the same motions that Peeta is using against my lower lips. It’s heady. It’s almost too much.
I tear my mouth away and gasp for breath. Gale chuckles and bends down to kiss at my neck while his hand comes up to stroke my face along the edge of my hairline. Unwilling to be left out, I reach out with my right hand and find Gale’s knee. I slide my hand up his leg until I feel the hair on his legs change to something thicker, more wiry. I smile.
I run my fingers up his balls until I find his shaft already fully erect. I wrap my hand around the base, stroking it.
Gale pulls his mouth away from my neck. “What are you doing, Catnip?”
I stroke him again. “What does it feel like I’m doing?”
“Feels like you’re issuing a challenge.”
“Maybe I am.”
“You hear that, Peet?” he addresses our third. “Our girl’s issued us a challenge.”
Peeta lifts his head. “Yeah, I heard it.” He licks his lips. “Think she means that whoever finishes first loses?” He grins. “Or should I say wins.”
“You wanna play?” I ask.
“Oh yeah.” Peeta gets back to work, nibbling slightly at my nub.
The feeling is intense, a little too intense. “Stop!”
“Are you okay? Did we do something wrong?” Peeta asks.
“No teeth,” I pant. “You were good, just… no teeth.”
He nods. “Got it.”
He starts again, gently kissing and licking as if to soothe my overstimulated flesh.
Gale runs his fingers over my chest, slightly pinching my nipples, before slipping down to circle my navel. He bends down to kiss me, making it more difficult for me to keep stroking him. I’m sure that’s his plan but I’m not going to let him get away with it. I rub my thumb over the edge of his foreskin, slipping it along the head to rub against his slit. He gasps, pulling away from me.
I quicken my pace, occasionally running my nails up his shaft, changing my rhythm so he can’t get too used to it. I start to run into resistance so I bring my fingers to my mouth, licking them as sexily as I can.
Gale narrows his eyes. “You’re playing to win.”
I chuckle. “When do I not?” I take him in my hand again, ready to up the stakes.
Before I can get started, Peeta manages to hit that right spot, forcing an involuntary moan. I glare down at him for making me lose my concentration on making Gale orgasm.
He looks up at me, his eyes crinkling. “What? I play to win too.”
And then it’s on.
It’s me versus the boys, but I have an advantage. Gale’s nineteen, and as experienced as he is, he’s still a guy.
A few seconds later he lets out an anguished groan. “Dammit, Peet! She’s gonna win! Lick harder!”
Peeta doubles his efforts, but he’s inexperienced, and as good as it feels, I want to make Gale come first.
And he does.
He explodes all over my hand and across his stomach. I keep stroking him until he lies down next to me in defeat. “Dammit, Katniss. I lost.” He leans over and kisses me. “Or maybe I should say I won.”
I bring my hand up to my mouth to taste him. I grimace. It’s not all that appetizing.
Gale sees my expression. “Sorry, Katniss. I guess guys don’t taste as good as girls.” He smiles playfully. “Maybe that fairy tale is true, that girls are made up of sugar and spice and everything nice.”
“Pretty sure those are cookies,” I respond, leaning up to kiss him.
“Mmm, that’s our Catnip, always so literal.” He captures my lips for a few tender moments before pulling back. “Hey, Peet, get up here and take care of our girl. I wanna get even.”
Peeta clambers up my body until he’s lying beside me. “Hey,” he greets me. He turns his eyes to Gale. “Sorry I’m not that good.” There’s something in his tone. Something that gives me pause.
“You weren’t bad,” I tell him, trying to soothe away the insecurity I sense inside him. “I just…” I pause, struggling for the right words. “I just wasn’t about to let anything distract me.”
“One of these days, that’s not gonna be true.”
“Come up here,” I say. “I want to see if I can beat both of you.”
“Nope,” Peeta says, positioning his body so the only way I can take him into my hands involves hurting the both of us.
Gale slides down my body, taking his place between my thighs. He moves my legs so that they’re not spread too wide and then dives in.
Peeta leans over me and I can feel his erection tickling my ear. He reaches behind him and plucks a dandelion, running it over my breasts, circling my nipples with the yellow flower. The coolness of the flower against my now heated skin is electrifying.
Dammit, at this rate they’re definitely going to make me orgasm before I can even remotely figure out how to beat them. I turn my head to try to figure out what I can do when a solution quite literally presents itself.
All I need to do is lift my body and turn slightly and I can take him in my mouth. So I do.
“Oh fuck,” Peeta swears, causing Gale to look up.
“Aw man! You get Katniss’s first blowjob too? Bastard!”
“Makes us even,” Peeta croaks out.
I chuckle around his cock, which causes Peeta to jerk his hips.
“Gale, you better get moving,” he warns the other man. “I don’t think I’m gonna last very long.”
Gale redoubles his efforts, but Peeta was right. He doesn’t last very long. One long hum around his length and he lets out a loud cry, filling my mouth.
As before with Gale, it doesn’t taste very good, and I swallow quickly just to get the taste out of my mouth.
I smirk at the boys. “Looks like I win again.”
“I think we’re the winners,” Peeta says breathlessly.
“Okay, Catnip, enough playing around. Let us look after you.”
So I do. I’ve already shown them who’s in charge. Why not lay back and enjoy the spoils of victory?
Opening my folds again, Gale kisses, nibbles, and licks, motioning for Peeta to come down so that he can learn.
As Peeta watches, he strokes my legs, hips, and belly. I desperately want him to touch my breasts, but without the distraction of trying to win, Gale’s ministrations leave me speechless.
I come soon after, arching my back. Gale licks me through my orgasm and sits up while I’m panting for breath. He turns to Peeta. “There, Mellark. That’s how you do it.”
Peeta nods. “I look forward to trying again.”
I come back down to earth to glare at them weakly. “Will you stop gloating and get inside me?”
I notice Peeta make a motion for Gale to proceed, but Gale holds back, saying, “Nah, I made her come once. It’s your turn.”
Peeta doesn’t argue. The two of them switch places.
But before Peeta can slide inside me, Gale stops him, placing a hand on the other man’s shoulder. “No. On your back,” Gale orders. “I want to watch her ride you.”
Peeta lays back and Gale helps me straddle him. I’m grateful for the help because my legs are shaking and I’m not sure I’d be able to move on my own.
Peeta helps me impale myself on him before letting me rest for a moment, my hands on his chest, feeling his length within me. I look down at him and he smiles. “Take all the time you need,” he tells me.
Gale moves behind me, reaching around to cup one of my breasts. “Take as much time as you need, but don’t be too surprised if Peet comes apart the moment you start to move.”
“Hey, I’m not that bad,” Peeta protests.
“So prove it,” Gale challenges. “No coming until our girl does. If you can.”
Gently, Gale reaches out and starts to help me move over Peeta. He doesn’t need to do much before I’m able to find a rhythm and take back command.
Gale lets out a low chuckle and starts to kiss my neck and shoulders, whispering encouragements to me. “That’s my girl. Make him writhe beneath you. Look at how much he loves that.”
Peeta reaches up to grasp at my hips. I can see the strain on his face. He’s trying desperately to refrain from ejaculating.
I think this is a competition I want him to win. I shift positions slightly so that his length rubs against my clit on each downstroke. I feel the orgasm within me grow.
Gale reaches down between Peeta’s and my joined bodies and works at my clit with his fingers. It’s too much and once again I come apart.
Peeta follows me a few moments later, shouting my name.
I feel a squirt of wetness hit my back and I look over my shoulder to see Gale fisting himself.
He flushes slightly. “Sorry about that, Katniss. Didn’t mean to get that on you.”
I’m not sure what to say so I just shrug.
I lean back, turning slightly, and give Gale a kiss, then lean forward and repeat the action with Peeta. I roll off of Peeta, lying down beside him. Gale snuggles up behind me.
Peeta turns to us and smiles. “So, who’s up for a swim?”
The following morning, we continue following the river. We pass another set of ruins and Gale asks to stop and explore. We don’t find much, although Peeta has the best luck out of all of us, finding a thick plastic box containing pretty much everything you need for line fishing, even a small collapsible fishing pole made out of an odd plastic-looking material that really isn’t. It’s similar to the bow Rory gave Gale on his birthday.
“I don’t know what Rory sees in this,” Gale complains. “It’s just digging around in the dirt, hoping to find something.”
“I don’t know,” Peeta says while examining his prize. “I can kind of see the appeal.”
“You would! You actually found something.” Gale holds up a piece of something we can’t quite identify. “All I’ve found is junk!”
“What’d you expect? This stuff is really old.” Peeta picks up one of the plastic wrapped lures. “The only things that are gonna make it through are the things that are really well-made and well taken care of. Do you think that everybody would have packed up all of their belongings perfectly? No.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Still doesn’t mean this is fun. Besides...” He leers at the two of us. “There’s things I’d much rather be doing.”
“Yeah, uh, speaking of that, we should probably stop doing that, having sex I mean, pretty soon. Likely in a day, two at most. I’m getting near what my mom says is the danger time, and…” I kind of trail off. I know how much Gale wants to have kids, and from Peeta’s earlier expression, I suspect he does too. But I’m not sure if I’m ready and I have no idea if I ever will be. And until I am, I don’t want to have the choice taken away from me.
“Then I think maybe it’s time for us to have another talk,” Peeta says, packing up his finds.
I’d expected this, even though I was hoping it wouldn’t come. I’d like to put it off as long as I can.
Gale seems to feel the same as me. “Why don’t we find a place to set up camp? Then we can talk. Maybe set that net we brought. I don’t know about you, but I could go for some fresh meat tonight.”
We find a place a little farther along the river and Peeta sets the net. I look around the large clearing. “I’m surprised there’s no trees,” I say.
Gale points to a few blackened and charred logs peeking up through the thick grass and scrub. “If I had to guess, I’d say there was a fire a few years ago.”
“What do you think set it?”
“Lightning. Maybe those raiders. Still, whatever caused it, it’s probably a good thing.” Gale motions further up the hill. “I think those are some sheep or goats or something. Could be good hunting.”
“We don’t need more meat,” I say.
Gale laughs. “Never thought I’d hear you say that.”
I toss a stick in his direction. “Shut up.”
Peeta rejoins us. There’s no need to set a fire unless we actually have something to cook. It’s just too warm and it’s not dark enough to need protection from predators yet. So we sit down in a loose circle facing each other.
“So, what do we need to talk about now?” Gale asks the other man once we’ve gotten settled.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but this relationship’s changed.”
“Well yeah, we got married.”
“Yes, but… not just that,” Peeta says, slowly. “Yesterday on the river, all three of us? That’s new. And we need to talk about it.”
“Why do we need to talk about it?” I ask, feeling nervous and not liking it one bit. “You liked it, I liked it, Gale liked it, what’s there to talk about?”
“Yes I did like it, Katniss. I can’t speak for Gale, but he seemed to be having a good time. But it adds a new dynamic to this relationship.”
“What do you mean, ‘dynamic?’” My tone is wary, hard.
“No, I think I get what Peet’s saying,” Gale says, looking over at me. “It’s not about you, Catnip. It’s about Peet and me. What we did with you comes a whole lot closer to that no penis touching rule.”
Peeta nods his head. “Got it in one. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy what we did. I did. I really did. I’d do it again. But Gale and me? We need to figure out what’s still forbidden and what’s not.”
“So how are we doing this?” Gale asks.
Peeta shrugs. “No clue. I thought you might have an idea.”
I think about it for a second. “Why can’t you guys just do what you did with me? Ask each other if you’re okay with something.”
“That’s a good start,” Peeta agrees, “but sometimes, in the heat of the moment, we might do things that we’re not okay with later.”
“Oh. So why don’t you just list off a few things and see if you’re okay with them?” I shrug, mirroring Peeta. “It seems kind of easy to me.”
He smiles at me, then turns to Gale. “So, kisses?”
“I’m okay with it. Heck I’ve kissed you already and it weren’t half bad. I’m not saying you’d be my first choice, but I’d be okay with it.”
“That sound doable.” Peeta shifts around nervously. “I’d also like not to have to ask permission. Sometimes you just want to kiss the person you love and not stop and ask ‘is this okay.’”
“You sayin’ you love me?”
“Yes.” It’s almost a challenge.
“Good. Me too. So no restrictions on kissing.”
Peeta smiles. “That means I can do this.” The blond man reaches up and runs his fingers down Gale’s jaw. Then he leans in and tentatively presses his lips to Gale’s. The kiss looks gentle, exploring. I don’t know how Peeta and Gale feel about it, but I’m pleased. I realize that it’s a bit of a relief to see that I’m not going to have to be the center for all physical interactions.
They pull back. Gale touches his lips. “Not bad, Mellark.”
“So you’d be up for more?”
He smiles tenderly at the other man. “Maybe. What’ve you got in mind?”
“How about hugging?”
“Whatever.” Gale waves his hand dismissively. “I don’t think we need any restrictions on that.”
Peeta smiles. “I don’t think we do either. Touching?”
“Depends on where and when and how.”
“So what’s out?”
“I don’t really feel like giving you a handjob, Mellark.”
“Same. But anything else?” he presses.
“Innocent touches, comforting touches, normal everyday kind of touches, you don’t need permission for those.” Gale pauses for a moment. “Stuff like we did yesterday, I’d like to do more.”
“More like what?”
“I don’t need you touching my penis, but I wouldn’t mind it if we were both working together to please Katniss and each other.”
“I think that sounds fair. I’m guessing sex sex is still out?”
“How would you even do that?” I interject.
Peeta’s voice takes on the sing-song quality of the Capitol. “Well, when a man loves another man…”
“Oh shut up!”
Gale laughs. “Don’t traumatize the girl, Mellark. It’s a no anyways.”
“It’s a no here too.”
“So Katniss, how do you feel about things?” Peeta turns back to me.
“I don’t know what you mean. I like sex. It’s fun, it’s good. I love both of you. So long as I don’t wake up to find one of you shoving yourself into me, I’m pretty much okay with whatever so long as I’m able to give you consent. And if I tell you to stop, you stop.”
“But how do you feel about maybe both of us at the same time?” Peeta asks.
“Both of you at the same time? Would you even fit? And wouldn’t that involve your penises touching?”
“There are ways you can do it.” He’s blushing as he says it.
“How do you know this?” I can’t stop myself from asking.
The blush gets worse. “Madge and Delly and I watched a lot of bad Capitol movies. That included some porn.”
“Ew! I don’t want to know… so how do you do this?”
“Well, there’s three common ways. We did two of them yesterday, kind of. One of us in your mouth, one of us inside you.”
I think back to how it felt good and how I liked it. “That’s fine.”
“Then there’s one of us in your hands and one of us inside you.”
“That’s fine too.”
“And then… one of us inside you and the other, um,” his cheeks are practically flaming and he’s almost stuttering to get the words out, ”inside of another... part of you.”
“Huh?” I have no idea what he’s trying to insinuate.
Gale’s eyes widen as realization dawns. “Oh! He means your ass, Catnip.”
“Ew! Yuck, no!”
“And there we have another boundary,” Peeta says, clearly grateful that Gale figured out what he was implying. “So, Katniss, if Gale and I decided that we wanted to have sex, which we don’t yet, but if we did, how would you feel about it?”
“I suppose I’d be okay. I mean, it’d be really hypocritical of me to say you two can’t have sex if I’m having sex with the both of you.”
Peeta smiles. “That’s why I love you, Katniss. You do what’s right, not what’s easy. That just brings us to one more thing.”
“Haven’t we covered everything? I mean, I suppose licking, but that kind of goes under kissing.”
“No, Katniss, not licking.” He fixes me with an intense look. “Kids.”
I squirm a little. “What about them?”
“I want them. Do you?” Peeta looks at Gale and me.
Gale half-shrugs. “I want them too. I loved being a dad to Posy and I’d love us to have a kid together. Catnip?”
I make a face. I don’t know what to say. They both want children. I mean, I suppose I’d always known that, but now it’s been said out loud. It makes it so much more real. I decide to be honest. “I never wanted kids, not back in Twelve. Not with the Games. I couldn’t bear it if I had a kid, raised them, loved them, provided for them for years, only to just lose them to the Capitol’s whim. I don’t know how the families that had it happen to them were able to bear the pain.”
“And now?” Gale presses. “We’re not in Twelve anymore.”
“I don’t know. Part of me still doesn’t want kids, but the other part is just... confused. I don’t want to bring a kid into this world unless all three of us want them. Besides, only one of you can be the father,” I say, bringing to voice one of my lingering fears regarding this relationship. “And there’s no guaranteeing that we’ll even be able to have children! So why worry about something that might never happen?” I finish in a rush of words.
“I think you’re being a little delusional, Katniss. You’re young and healthy. The chances are pretty good that, if you want to have kids, you’ll have them,” Peeta tells me. “It’s just a matter of you wanting them.”
“I don’t know if I want them. Is it okay that I don’t know? Do I have to decide right now?” I’m pleading with them to understand. “I mean, you’re right, I’m just sixteen. Do we have to make that decision right now? We have time, lots of time! I mean, my mom didn’t have me until she was twenty four, that’s years away!”
“You’re right, Katniss, we do have time. I suppose we don’t have to have this discussion right now,” Peeta says with a sigh. He looks up at me, his heart in his eyes. “Just, if you ever do decide you want to have kids, you’ll let us know? I’ll do my best not to pressure you, but I really want to be a dad.”
“I’m with Mellark. Besides, any kid of yours is a kid of mine,” Gale says, addressing my fear. “It doesn’t matter which of us technically fathered them. Posy was mine, I ain’t got no problem loving another man’s kid.” He thumps at his chest. “It’s about what’s in the heart, you know?”
“I’m sure I’ll love any child of ours, too,” Peeta adds. “Genetics don’t matter.”
I want this conversation to come to a close, so I say, “I’ll let you know when I’ve made a decision, but it’s probably not gonna be for a while. A few years, at best. We’ve got to make it through the winter here first, right?”
“Right,” Gale agrees.
“So, you up for an afternoon quickie while you still can?” Peeta asks.
“Um, sure. But Gale gets to be inside me.”
Gale raises an eyebrow. “Not that I’m complaining, but why’s that?”
“I don’t want you guys getting jealous of each other, not again. If we keep it even, you won’t have anything to worry about.”
“I’m not really sure it works that way, but if it makes you feel better.” Peeta smiles at me.
“Then we’ll do as my lady commands.”
The next morning, we follow the river south. One side is all meadow and brush while the other is fully forested. It’s kind of eerie.
We follow the path of the fire’s destruction along the river until we reach something rather odd: a large pile of concrete, rock, and gravel. The river cuts through part of it and there’s several ruins around the area.
“What do you think this was?” I ask, walking around.
“I don’t know, but there’s something concrete over there.” Peeta points toward something.
“Looks like it could’ve been a dam,” Gale suggests. “Kind of looks like that big one down in Five.” He points towards what might’ve been a spillway. He looks at the wilderness beyond and motions with his hand to it. “And look, you can see, the forest here - you can see where the water line used to be. The forest in the valley isn’t as dense or as mature as the stuff above the waterline.”
“When do you think the dam broke?” I ask.
Gale shrugs. “I don’t know. Makes me glad that we weren’t living where we are when it did.”
“Although that explains some of the damage we’ve seen along here.”
We walk around, looking at the dam.
“How much further do you want to explore?” Peeta asks. “I’m up for it, but I’d really rather spend time with the two of you.”
“We don’t have to go anywhere. That fire meadow’s a good camping area and there’s fish to eat and I’m sure there’s game. We can stick around, do nothing.”
“Can you do nothing?”
“I’m willing to try.”
The boys laugh.
“Come on, I’ll show you how to hunt,” I say to Peeta.
“I’m gonna suck at it.”
“You’re gonna get better at some point,” Gale says encouragingly.
“You’d like to think that,” he says dubiously.
“Well, even if you’re crap at the bow, I can at least show you how to make some snares. Those don’t take much effort.”
He smiles at me. “Yeah, I think I’d like that.”
We spend the last few days of our honeymoon growing closer. None of the conversations are as difficult as the one when we first got to this campsite and most are light-hearted, teasing, and flirting.
By the end of it, I know more about the pranks that Peeta and his brothers used to play. I always thought he was such a good boy, and to hear about the pranks that they used to play on the teachers and other shopkeepers had Gale and me laughing for hours.
Gale also shared stories of his own. I’d always known he’d been a bit of a rebel, but I never knew that he did his best to try to woo the butcher’s daughter, and that she’d shot him down in favor of Peeta’s eldest brother.
“Is that why you hated me so much?” Peeta asks when Gale tells the story.
“I suppose maybe. I just heard the name Mellark and cringed. I had the biggest crush on Reenie when I was about Rory’s age and finally worked up the guts to ask her out when I was about fifteen. By then she’d already hooked up with that older brother of yours and she shot me down hard.”
“Was she at least nice about it?” Peeta asks.
Gale shakes his head. “I was fifteen, and even more of a hard-headed ass than I am now, if you can believe it.”
Peeta opens his mouth to say something and Gale says “No!” before he can.
Peeta just smirks.
Gale continues his story, “But to fifteen year old me, Reenie Gibbs broke my heart. Luckily around that time I noticed what an amazing girl Catnip here was and transferred my affections.”
“Really?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, not really. There were a few girls in between. You don’t mind?”
I shrug my shoulders. “It’s in the past now. It’s not like anyone from Twelve is gonna show up here. Besides, you’re the one who wanted to get married. If you even think of finding somebody else, after all the shit you’ve put Peeta and me through, I will hang you by your entrails and let the crows feed on your rotting corpse.”
Peeta leans over to Gale and stage whispers, “I think that means that she’d be a little jealous.”
“You’re lucky she didn’t threaten to castrate you first,” Peeta continues. “I would. And I don’t make idle threats.”
“Good to know. Same thing’s true for you, Mellark.”
“You think after being in love with Katniss for eleven years that I’m going to start looking for some other girl? Or boy? Please.”
“Well, you did fall in love with me,” Gale points out.
“True. But only ‘cause you’re such a bastard.”
“And you love it.”
“What can I say?” Peeta kisses Gale lightly on the nose. “I guess you can say I have a thing for emotionally constipated people from the Seam.”
“Hey! I’ll have you know I am not emotionally constipated!” Gale exclaims.
“Really, Mr. I-only-realize-I-love-someone-when-they’re-on-the-brink-of-death?” He follows up his kiss with a playful tap. “Don’t think I didn’t notice that! And I bet Katniss here noticed it too!”
Put on the spot, I nod. I hadn’t noticed. But I’m not going to tell them that. I would never hear the end of it. “And I’m not emotionally constipated, whatever that means.”
Both Peeta and Gale throw back their heads and laugh. “Oh, Katniss,” Peeta gasps, trying to regain control. “I love you with every bit of my being, but you’re a hard person to get to know.”
Gale recovers and adds, “Worth the effort, though.”
“Besides, you have no idea the effect you have on people,” Peeta finishes.
“Huh?” I don’t know whether I should be offended or flattered at their words.
“I’m with Peet here. Once I saw what was right before my eyes, I was gone.”
“I’m nothing special,” I tell them.
Gale shakes his head. “That’s where you’re wrong.”
We head back home the next day. I want to go overland, to see more of the countryside, but Gale and Peeta veto that idea. We’re expected home soon and we don’t want my mother, Prim, or Rory to start worrying about us.
They’ve got a point. We can always explore the area later. We have time. If not now, maybe next month, or even next year.
We make it home late that day. The sun’s almost set and I would’ve insisted we stop earlier, but I knew we were close. I sing out the chorus of the Valley Song as a recognition signal, so that they know it’s us. The last thing we want is to get an arrow in the knee by Rory or Prim defending the cave.
As we get near, I hear my sister calling out. “They’re back, they’re back! Katniss and Peeta and Gale are home!”
I smile at the thought. She’s right. I take Peeta and Gale’s hands in mine.
I am home.